By Cheril Vernon

Messenger Copy Editor

ELKHART – The non-profit organization Keep Elkhart Beautiful Inc. is inviting the community to participate in its Keep Elkhart Beautiful Trash-Off clean-up event set for Saturday, April 8.

The Elkhart pick-up-litter event will be held in conjunction with the statewide Don’t Mess with Texas Trash-Off set for the same day.

The event will be held from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, April 8 starting in the parking lot of First United Methodist Church, located at 202 E. Parker Street in Elkhart across the street from Elkhart Elementary School.

“People are encouraged to come at 9:45 a.m. so we can check and see where they need to go,” Keep Elkhart Beautiful Inc. Board President Rosemary Biel told the Messenger Wednesday. “We will be doing litter pickup on the streets of Elkhart around the areas of Parker Street.”

In addition, Keep Elkhart Beautiful Inc. will sell merchandise such as t-shirts, hats, glasses and pens as a fund-raiser for the organization.

Keep Elkhart Beautiful has more than 30 safety vests and 16 easy-reachers that can be used for volunteers participating in the Trash-Off event.

“We are inviting everyone to come out and help us Keep Elkhart Beautiful,” Biel said.

In addition, Keep Elkhart Beautiful Inc. is working on a flower planter project for the downtown area.

“We have a three-woman committee led by our treasurer, Kristi McWright, who is working on that project,” Biel said. “They are deciding on the planters, the soil and what kind of flowers they want. They will be coming to the board for approval at our next meeting.”

Keep Elkhart Beautiful Inc.’s next meeting is set for 5:30 p.m. Monday, March 27 at FUMC, 202 W. Parker St. in Elkhart.

“We have two open positions on the board. We encourage anyone who is interested in helping Keep Elkhart Beautiful to attend,” Biel said.

The current board of directors includes: Biel, president; Jan Stuteville, vice president; McWright, treasurer; and Karen Bridges, treasurer.

“One of our board members, Erroll Tatum, has been keeping his eye open for grants that we might be interested in,” Biel said.

One of Keep Elkhart Beautiful Inc.’s most visible recent project is the clean-up of tract 13 and tract 14 on Parker Street in the downtown Elkhart area.

“We hired a brush hog to clean it and then we picked up the other debris and we will continue to keep it up,” Biel said, noting that McWright handled that particular project. “That’s something that the citizens have told us. There’s a big push to keep the downtown area cleaned up.”

Keep Elkhart Beautiful Inc. is a fairly new organization, as the first temporary board meeting was held in November of 2015. On Feb. 8, 2016, it became incorporated. The organization became an official 501 c-3 non-profit organization on Aug. 1, 2016.

In 2016, Keep Elkhart Beautiful Inc. held three small litter pick-up events.

“We want to engage people to become interested in elevating our city. We want our city to be more beautiful and we want our city to grow,” Biel said. “The cleaner you keep the city, the more things can grow. Many times businesses can be attracted to an area just by how clean the neighborhoods are kept, even in small communities.”

Biel said she has seen how a united, community effort can go along way to build communities slowly over time.

“I’m a resident and I’ve worked here as a substitute teacher, so this is my way of giving back to Elkhart,” said Biel, who is involved in various community-oriented organizations in Anderson County.

For McKnight, it’s about improving the community.

“I enjoy trying to make things a little better, to give citizens something to take pride in,” McKnight said.

The Keep Elkhart Beautiful Trash-Off event is not to be confused with the City of Elkhart’s clean-up day, which is a separate event that will be held later this month.

“Keep Elkhart Beautiful and the citizens of Elkhart appreciate the City of Elkhart’s work in keeping Elkhart clean and beautiful. The city does a day of clean up twice a year for big items and gives an award monthly called Yard of the Month to private residences, churches or businesses,” Biel said. “Flowers in the front of the city office plus employees picking up trash at times also need a thank you.”

For more information about the Keep Elkhart Beautiful Inc. Trash-Off on April 8 or about the non-profit organization, call 903-948-8148, e-mail lopingcoyote@gmail.com or visit the Keep Elkhart Beautiful Inc. Facebook page.